What a roller coaster game that was. It looked like a shootout at first, then the Vikings pulled away, then Washington came back but ultimately, the Vikes were able to hold on for a big win 38-30 on the road.
The first takeaway from this game was how unstoppable the offense looked for 80 percent of it. Everything clicked; the offensive line opened holes like it had not all season, the throws were crisp, the skill players made plays. It was fun to watch before Case Keenum started turning the ball over in the second half.
Then there was the defense. It struggled all game to get pressure and stop the run, two things it had done exceptionally well all year. It was clear that the absence of Everson Griffen had a huge impact on the game as Kirk Cousins was too comfortable in the pocket.
But in a tough environment against a sneaky good team, coming away with a win was all fans could ask for. It was closer than it should have been but it was a good one for the playoff resume.
Who Stood Out
The whole offense looked great for much of the game. Everyone. But if I had to pick one, it would have to be Adam Thielen, once again. There is just something about the Keenum-Thielen connection that works. Keenum played arguably the best half of his career in the first, entering the break with a perfect rating. Thielen was a big part of that and he kept his five-catch streak going with 166 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions. They were cocky about it, too with Keenum just lofting passes up nonchalantly, knowing it would be right on the money and Thielen would run under it perfectly. But then Keenum imploded a bit with interceptions on back-to-back possessions, resulting in Washington getting back into it.
Still, Thielen’s performance kept them ahead most of the way; he has officially eclipsed Diggs as the number one target for Keenum.
With Everson Griffen out due to a foot injury, others needed to step up. Danielle Hunter was chosen to go against star left tackle Trent Williams and he did not deliver as fans would hope. The pass rush as a whole was lackluster all game, recording just one sack and five quarterback hits but Hunter specifically stands out because of the shoes he was asked to fill today. He got a couple pressures and a late sack when Washington was in desperation mode and he could just pin his ears back but it was the veteran Brian Robison who provided more of the Griffen-like production.
Really the whole defense seemed off today, allowing a season-high 394 yards. Linval Joseph, who is used to being the immovable object in the middle, struggled to get any movement up front. Coverage from everyone, from Xavier Rhodes to Harrison Smith to Eric Kendricks, was surprisingly loose. It kept a struggling Washington team in the game even though the Vikings offense was dominant.
The Vikes get a one-week homestand before three straight road games. Unfortunately, that single home game is against one of the best teams in the NFC in the Los Angeles Rams. Minnesota is in good position at 7-2 but the schedule is getting really tough moving forward with playoff-hopefuls virtual every week from here on out. Minnesota needs to maintain this offensive firepower if they hope to compete for a first round bye.
Read Clayton Brooks’ game recap here.